Friday Links

No, I’m not hitting the golf course today. Can’t remember the last time I actually did pick up clubs and try to play (emphasis on “try,” of course). But maybe a haircut or trip to the gym…?

So here goes…

Rick Klein’s daily Note with everything you need to know from the Capital and beyond.

Yesterday’s news that the Senate won’t finish up its healthcare debate before a scheduled recess will apparently trigger a multimillion dollar interest group war in the weeks to come. Lovely. Get the popcorn ready! Or youtube…

Cillizza also thinks that despite Republicans still have an uphill climb as far as gaining seats in the Senate next year, even though President Obama has clearly taken some hits lately and his party will most likely lose some seats in the House (especially in districts which voted for John McCain last year). On the other hand, the GOP may find it easier to hold some of the seats that conventional wisdom held might be tough ones because of all the swing-states which Obama won or narrowly lost last year (especially Ohio, Florida, and Missouri).

The President hasn’t given up hope on a speedy resolution to healthcare (and he insists he won’t be ‘broken’), as he’ll meet with two very important senators today. Probably won’t be able to goad either Max Baucus or Harry Reid that much, the Senate tends to do things in its own sweet time, and was, after all, designed to be a deliberative, federalist body. At least President Obama can still bask in the glow of Mark Buehrle’s perfect game, and DeWayne Wise’s spectacular catch to preserve it. Buehrle was actually on the mound for a little over 30 minutes, and didn’t need more than 3 minutes for any one hitter. Amazing.

Apparently, New York does not have a monopoly on corruption and greed at the local levels of government. You only have to cross the Hudson River for evidence

California’s budget crisis is getting closer to resolution. It’s not going to be pretty for anyone.

The federal minimum wage officially goes up to $7.25 per hour today (states are allowed to set higher minimums if they wish). For workers in a few states, the increase could be worth $1,400 or more over the next 12 months- which could really help with paying debts or stimulating local economies-, but some economists worry that it could kill jobs for businesses lacking strong profit margins. I don’t think the wage has gone up so much in recent years that it’s going to be a huge problem yet. But we should keep an eye on the small businesses most affected by minimum wage laws, because they do provide a lot of jobs when put together.

This won’t happen, but I think it would be nice for cooling off our political discourse and providing voters with competitive elections.

Michael Phelps returns to action this weekend. What can he possibly do for an encore? In fact, it might really be a second encore considering he took home quite a few medals in the 2004 Athens games.

Michael Vick may also be back soon, but he will apparently face a suspension to start the new NFL season. Oh, and he has to find a team. Obviously, Vick hopes that a definite decision on his future will lead one or more teams to show real interest.

Roger Federer now has twins to go along with all of his trophies. At least one oddsmaker is already taking bets on whether or not his daughters will win tennis majors.

Nike is no longer trying to suppress videos of LeBron getting dunked on. Not that what we saw turned out to be much of a big deal. Nor is it really that big a deal that he apparently tried marijuana while in high school.

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A Day at the Races

Somewhat on the spur of the moment this past Saturday, I decided to make the short trip to Belmont Park for this year’s Stakes Day. Actually, it wasn’t so short after a couple of train changes, and going home, I got a small taste of the dreaded “Change at Jamaica” in trying to make the necessary connections. But no big deal, a small price to pay for having a good time and not having to fight traffic on the local roads.

Belmont is a bit of a throwback to an earlier time in sports. The general admission charge was $10 (less for most days of the meet, more for reserved seats and the Clubhouse) and there are obvious signs of aging in the main building. Still, it’s certainly a more than functional venue. Once inside, you have license to walk around most of the place, except the track, barns, and seating areas. Basically, I went to place bets with the help of muddy-old television screens, a program, or the Daily Racing Form which could be purchased. A little instinct and luck helps too. You can also go to the track’s backyard, where fans scarf down food and drinks- unfortunately for modern-era prices- and watch for horses to take the ceremonial march to the track. After that, they either queue along the front stretch for a view of the race (and during the Stakes itself, the crowd was several people deep) or watch from benches inside. Either way, you have to watch most of the race off a TV since you can’t see much of the track unless you’re in one of those premium reserved seats/boxes higher up. When the horses arrive “down the stretch,” man do people scream, hoping to cash in big. In an era of all-seat stadiums (or at least benched bleachers) with direct views of the playing field, horse racing is a taste of what it might have been like to watch outside the ropes at old-time baseball parks, which sometimes were literally all that separated fans from the outfield or foul territory.

Belmont Park Finish Line

How did my wagering fare? Not so well. There was one consolation prize. I managed to get close enough to the winner’s circle during the Belmont Stakes to see Summer Bird cross the line and then get someone else to take a few pictures of the celebration. Oh, and I was just about face-to-face with the Governor, in a cheerful mood on this occasion, as he shook hands and autographed programs for everyone who could get close to him. Hey, with the specter of a tough reelection campaign and maybe even a party primary next year, who could blame him for trying to work the crowd a bit. Of course, he wasn’t so jovial after yesterday’s chaos… What a mess in Albany. No leadership, no ideas, and not much else to write home about either.

David Paterson at the Belmont Stakes

Good way to spend a perfect summer afternoon. Next time though, I seriously gotta do more homework on the horses so I can actually win money!

Belmont Stakes Winner's Circle

If This Really Happens…

I’d feel bad for my friends in Chicago, some of whom post on this fine blog. Rod Blagojevich as America’s newest shock jock?

My first reaction when I saw this link at work was “you’re kidding about this, right?” I mean, “mastery of public policy, newshound-like familiarity with the events of the day, and remarkable facility with banter,” as program director Kevin Metheny claims. Sure, we can say Blago has shown mastery of arrogance, stupidity, and if the criminal charges against him are proven, corruption. The other qualities? Not so much. Besides, doesn’t radio already have enough people like this? By the way, WGN-TV was famous for carrying that character. And now a modern version would star on WGN-AM.

Believe it or not, a rival station already offered him a show.

Credit to Taegan Goddard for spotting this story. He always seems to find the good nuggets of political news, plus some witty quotes on the side.

That’s it for now. Off to watch the Australian Open and whatever else is on TV tonight.